How can ICV help SMEs
The Innovation & Capability Voucher (ICV):
The main aim of this grant is to encourage small and medium enterprises to enhance their capabilities in areas of productivity such as technology innovation services, technical feasibility studies, technical support and knowledge development, human resources and financial management. This is a voucher worth $5,000 and you can utilize this for any of the services mentioned below.
SMEs can use the ICV to implement solutions under these specific supportable cost categories
(i) Equipment & hardware
(ii) Technical solutions
(iii) Professional services
(iv) Design& renovation.
Another great tip for SMEs that wish to upgrade their capabilities further in any of these areas may tap on the Capability Development Grant.
ICV can also help SMEs where consultancy projects are concerned. Each small or medium enterprise can attainup to a maximum of eight vouchers, but an SME may only apply for two vouchers per capability areas for consultancy services in the ICV scheme. In addition, each project has to be finished before a new application is considered. Each project must also be completed within six months.
All SMEs in Singapore are eligible to apply for this grant if they are physically present and registered in Singapore, have at least 30% local shareholding, and make annual sales of not more than $100 million or do not apply more than 200 employees. You can apply online via the ICV Online Portal.
Where previously ICV was restricted only to consultancy services, an enhanced ICV was announced by the Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Teo Ser Luck, at the Alexandra Village as part of the outreach efforts under the SME Workgroup. This is effective from 1 March 2014, and also supports implementation of solutions in the four capability areas of innovation, productivity, human resources development, and financial management.
As claimed by Luck, ‘We have been actively engaging the SMEs through different platforms, including the SME Workgroup outreach sessions. Expanding the scope of the ICV is a response to their feedback and will help SMEs, especially heartland businesses, further their productivity improvements. SMEs are encouraged to leverage this enhanced ICV to continue to enhance and transform their businesses.’
The reason why the Singaporean government decided to move from the regular ICV to an enhanced version as that it was found through feedback by the SME Workgroup that small and medium enterprises do not necessarily require consultancy services to diagnose a problem or propose solutions. They can go directly to implementing solutions and meeting their business challenges so as long as the resource constraints are minimized. This can be done through capability upgrading.
The enhanced ICV covers both implementation of recommendations from business consultations as well as direct implementation of solutions in the specified four areas. The ultimate aim of the enhanced ICV is to raise productivity and efficiency, better manage costs, and strengthen the business operations of the small and medium enterprises to achieve sustainable growth.
An example of an SME that has reaped the benefits that ICV has to offer is Skylace Language School. It employs 14 teachers, and offers Chinese enrichment classes for children and training service for teachers through operating in five enrichment centers. An ICV (Productivity) project helped Skylace conduct an overall business diagnosis on its management and key business operations. It then identified areas for improvement, which ranged from improving its retention strategy, better management of data for greater competitiveness in the market and streamlining its processes. The second part dealt with implementing these proposed solutions. This could be done with software programs and creating a centralized database. This would not only streamline existing processes but manage information and market the school more easily.